Willie is still part of the program and has been able to regain some normalcy in his life, but there are many more in need.
Thursday, Dinkins took Helping Hands public as he presented the organization to a group of business and political leaders in the county.
“This is sort of our coming out party,” Dinkins said. “Most of the people we see have been hurt physically and emotionally, and we hope to help them build a new life from the inside out by encouraging and strengthening and building people up.”
The organization has run primarily off unsolicited private donations. Since its founding, the organization has purchased and remodeled a 10-unit apartment complex and two houses where those in need can live. They also started two thrift stores to help fund the projects and have helped many people find jobs or start working though a handyman service they operate.
“Ultimately, we would like to bridge the gap between those who have and those who have not, and be a vessel to help the homeless. We are focused on housing, jobs, food, clothing, transportation, and medical and dental,” Dinkins said.
To achieve those goals, he hopes to get donations not only of cash, but of time and services.
Thursday, several people helped by the organization shared the stories of their lives, often devastated by drug and alcohol-fueled hopelessness.
“One day, I thought I had enough money in my pocket to end it all and I tried to by drinking myself to death,” said Kerry Taylor, who ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis after he collapsed in front of a drug store while looking for help.
He was referred to Helping Hands by the local Salvation Army and has been sober for several months.
Richard McRay, who said he was volunteered to the organization by his wife after he retired, has seen his sometimes hard heart soften.
“I had a callous attitude about the homeless. I either thought they were Vietnam veterans or just too lazy to stop drinking or doing drugs, but I’ve come to realize they are just like me. They are good people who took a wrong turn along the way and they need help to get back on track,” McRay said. “Honestly, they have helped me more than I have helped them.”
Dinkins said the group hopes to buy a motel and transform it to house women and children. They also hope to expand the medical services they offer.
“No one on the board gets paid. We all operate private businesses and we give our time. I know there are doctors and nurse practitioners and dentists out there who are willing to volunteer their time,” he said.
For information about the organization, call 732-4464 or go to www.helpinghandsocala.org.